Review: Ancillary Sword

Posted 9 November, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2)
By: Ann Leckie
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go — to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn’s sister works in Horticulture.

Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized — or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station’s AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what’s going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent.

Alrighty, second book in the Imperial Radch trilogy! I read Ancillary Justice (review) last year and absolutely enjoyed it, so I was curious to see how Breq’s ventures fared in the second book.

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Hmm, okay, what I really liked about this novel was how it expanded on the worldbuilding from the first novel. In Ancillary Sword we see the fallout of the Lord of Radch’s ongoing war with herself and how the station is experiencing ongoing struggles and divisions between the empire and their own independence. There’s a lot more local politicking going on in this novel, and the contrasts between the Imperial Radch and these various societies are more apparent, right down to even Breq’s behaviour and customs. Propriety and observing certain customs in the event of a death or of ranking was highlighted quite a bit throughout this novel, and emphasised a lot more than I recall in the previous volume.

Having said that, I thought this book was a lot slower than the previous book and not as interesting. At first I thought the slow pacing was a result of Breq getting used to command, figuring out who’s loyal and who’s not, about what’s going on at Athoek Station, etc. Which is understandable but as the story progressed and Breq got caught up with the fractions and the underlying socio-political tensions, it just wasn’t as interesting. I was definitely intrigued about what was going on with the transporations of people outside and what could that possibly mean for the empire and the ongoing struggle within Anaander Mianaai, but I guess I wasn’t as interested in this novel compared to the first novel because it’s a lot smaller in scope, focused solely on the Athoek Station, and these shifty and suspicious characters, half of which I found irritating and all of whom I did not trust at all. I was all for Breq peacing out and steering clear of the station, regardless of whether Lieutenant Awn’s sister worked at the station or not.

Ancillary Sword was interesting enough in continuing Breq’s journey with the ongoing conflict and her own immersion with human society. The book expands also expands a lot on the worldbuilding established in the first novel and the ongoing political complexity surrounding the empire. While the themes of power and identity were interesting, I could’ve used more overarching intrigue concerning Anaander Mianaai’s little war with herself as the stuff on Athoek Station bored me at times. I’m still looking forward to reading the final volume of the trilogy and wrapping up the ongoing loose story threads.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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